Other Cowboy Stars — Clu Gulager and “A Day with the Boys”

June 27, 2011

This seventeen minute film was directed by Clu Gulager in 1969.  It was photographed by Lazlo Kovacs and has a look that whispers “danger!” over every pastoral shot.  There is no dialogue, only a musical score which grows increasing haunting and menacing.  The setting is nostalgically rural yet it’s Laurel Canyon, mere miles from the heart of the Sunset Strip during the Summer of Love.  This was just after Gulager finished a 6-year run as Sherriff Ryker on “The Virginian” and right before Kovaks shot “Easy Rider.”  Crazy time.

In the film, a group of boys do what boys do – play with toy guns, chase birds, kick stuff, rummage thru garbage, pick up snakes.  Towards the end, they convince a man in a suit and hat (a traveling salesman? a neighbor?) to run off into the wilderness with them where they bury him alive.  The final shot reveals a graveyard marked by totems of their previous victims.

A fan of “Stand By Me” would find this irresistible.  Maybe even the author?  Mr. King, I’m looking at you!  I’d bet Stanley Kramer was a fan.

It is a stunning film and the only film that Gulager has directed.  So far.

You can see some of “A Day with the Boys” here.

(Or you can rent the 2000 film “George Washington”, as I did, and view a near perfect print as part of the special features.)

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